That was the text of an ad by a truck parts supplier a few decades back, promoting their excellent parts availability. Those were the days when you could pull into an International dealer to get your Kenworth fixed at 11 pm, the trusty (and crusty) parts man would quickly find the needed part, and a mechanic or three would work overtime and get you back on the road at 2 am after a short nap and they let you fill your thermos from the coffee pot. And they did all that without the internet or overnight shipping services!

Been making the rounds of a few small manufacturers lately- you know, the mom & pop outfits that turn out motorcycle accessories, farm implements, etc…. The bits and pieces we need to complete and complement a machine and get the job done. And despite having an internet that should be able to find us any part for anything and get it in our hands the next business day if not immediately, these folks are having trouble completing units and shipping them out the door to satisfied customers because they can’t get the parts they need.

Let’s start by calling out a major offender, HOG(NYSE) otherwise known as “Harley”. Now in the motobiz, a few dealers have put their parts books on line to better serve customers near and far. It appears to be the far part that has HOG(NYSE) mostly worried, as the mere thought of customer in far away places like Canada saving a buck on a gasket causes HOG(NYSE) to blow a gasket. Never mind that your not so friendly local Harley dealer doesn’t even stock said gasket and a dealer just across the border in Minnesota has it in stock for a buck less and can overnight it to you… HOG(NYSE) insists that you be enslaved to your lousy local Harley dealer’s parts department and their understocked slow motion parts system. Heck, even if your friendly local Harley dealer is on the ball and has your part in stock, you may not be able to buy online from them, ’cause you don’t live in that dealer’s HOG(NYSE) assigned “territory”. So you break down on the road, go online to a dealer 50 miles away to order the repair part, knowing that even at UPS’s cheapest rate you’d get the part overnight, delivered to your motel. But Noooo… Again, you’re stuck ordering from whatever Harley dealer’s territory you happen to be in, and HOG(NYSE) doesn’t give a damn if you have to wait a week in that cheesy motel for that part.

Further down the supplier food chain, the situation ain’t much better. The motorcycle parts wholesalers have been swallowing each other of late, and some of the survivors have become downright surly. Same with companies that do things like chrome parts for you or keep your shop supplied with neccessities like welding supplies and such. Now back in the good old days, these suppliers truck would drop by your shop with a regularity you could set your watch by every week, and you’d BS with the same driver they’d had for years as he dropped off your parts and picked up next week’s work. But Noooo… Nowdays, despite that magnificent tool we call the internet, suppliers seem to fill or not fill orders at random, then deliver them when (and if) they damn well feel like it. And said suppliers cute and splashy website featuring every part you’d ever dream of? Just a come-on, half that stuff their supplier in some dark corner of the third world won’t even think of making until they get a minimum order in the thousands!

So here I sit, with a stack of virtual backorder slips- Guzzi cables, half of them have arrived after a month. Ford Ranger front brake hardware kit… reputedly in a NAPA warehouse, and hopefully the one only 150 miles away. BMW clutch washers… parts book shows them, but No Longer Available.

I’m starting to understand why gearheads are buying lathes and such!